Can I Sue for Psychological Damages after a Car Accident?

Washington DC Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King Advocate for Clients with Psychological Damages After Car Accidents.

After a car accident, some damage is obvious, such as dented fenders and personal injury requiring immediate medical attention. When filing your claim, repair fees, medical bills, and lost wages fall under more tangible, economic damage. Less apparent forms of harm, such as emotional distress, may also be eligible for compensation.

Washington DC allows plaintiffs to seek compensation for emotional as well as economic damage. If you have suffered psychological harm, consult an attorney to see whether you have a case. An experienced lawyer can help you get the compensation for which you are entitled.

What Is Emotional Damage?

Emotional damage, also known as mental anguish, is a form of personal injury. It is a psychological reaction with a high amount of pain, distress, humiliation, fury, or other powerful reactions resulting from another’s conduct. When a person sues for so-called pain and suffering, this includes emotional as well as bodily harm.

Mental anguish comes in many forms. It can manifest as an illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or an anxiety disorder. Subtler forms of distress include a reduced quality of life and loss of enjoyment with loved ones. Psychological and bodily harm may overlap, such as the trauma from a car accident leading to panic attacks, or depression arising from physical injury.

What Legally Qualifies as Emotional Damage?

According to Washington DC’s Restatement (Third) of Torts, section 46, Negligent Conduct Directly Inflicting Emotional Disturbance on Another:

An actor whose negligent conduct causes serious emotional disturbance to another is subject to liability to the other if the conduct:

  • Places the other in immediate danger of bodily harm and the emotional disturbance results from the danger; or
  • Occurs in the course of specified categories of activities, undertakings, or relationships in which negligent conduct is especially likely to cause serious emotional disturbance.

There are many ways this restatement can be interpreted, such as pain and suffering resulting from a car accident. The suffering may arise from personal injury as a direct result of the accident. It may also come from being in the so-called zone of danger, being close enough to the incident where the victim believes they will experience serious harm. Close family members of the victim may sue for loss of consortium, or loss of time and companionship with the injured party. A person who inflicts intentional mental anguish in an extreme fashion may also have a case filed against them.

What Is the Difference Between Negligent and Intentional Emotional Distress?

Two types of emotional damage claims in tort law are intentional and negligent distress. Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) is when a person behaves with the deliberate aim of causing psychological harm that is enduring, abominable, or both. One instance of name calling would not fall under IIED, but ongoing verbal threats could be.

Negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED) is mental anguish that occurred without intention. An important element of NIED is the defendant must have foreseen their actions would lead to harm, such as distracted driving. A person who sues under this claim may not be directly harmed in the incident. Being in the zone of danger of an auto accident and seeing a loved one injured or killed are common grounds for NIED claims.

What Does Loss of Consortium Mean?

When a close family member such as a spouse, parent, or child is injured in a car accident, they may be unable to provide the same relationship as before. There might be less love and affection, and a shift in family dynamics. This is called loss of consortium.

With car accident claims, loss of consortium most often refers to the spouse of the victim. They may file a claim based on whether the accident has changed living arrangements such as household duties and child care or has disrupted their sex lives. A spouse may also claim loss of consortium if a previously loving, stable relationship has been disrupted or the injured spouse’s life expectancy has changed.

How Do I Prove Psychological Damages?

To convince a court you are experiencing mental anguish, you must provide evidence. Make sure to gather paperwork confirming the cause, intensity, and duration of your distress. Document what you can, such as keeping a pain journal.

Medical notes confirming your emotional symptoms and any related physical harm are also important. With your permission, a therapist can establish when you first sought treatment and why. A physician can record signs of anguish such as lack of sleep, reduced appetite, and altered heart rate.

Coping with an accident, the resulting emotional damage and seeking compensation are all stressful. Hiring an attorney experienced with car accident and personal injury law can help relieve part of the burden. The lawyer will assist you with gathering evidence and other parts of the claim process. This includes providing guidance about what forms of documentation to collect to strengthen your case.

Is There a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is a time limit in which a person can file a lawsuit. This timeframe varies by the type of claim as well as by state. In Washington DC, the statute of limitations for personal injury and car accidents is three years after the incident.

This will give you time to prepare your case. It also means you need to file while memories and evidence are still fresh and less likely to be forgotten or lost. Use this time to speak with a lawyer and gather evidence.

Washington DC Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King Advocate for Clients with Psychological Damages After Car Accidents

The damage caused from a car accident can be more than physical. If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident and suffer mental anguish afterwards, the Washington DC car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King are available to help. Our experienced legal team will fight to make sure you receive full and fair compensation for both economic and non-economic damages. Call us today at 202-331-1963 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Washington DC, Alexandria, Virginia, and National Harbor, Maryland, we work with clients in Prince George’s County, including Laurel, Beltsville, Adelphi, College Park, Greenbelt, Mitchellville, Woodmore, Greater Upper Marlboro, Springdale, Largo, Bowie, Capitol Heights, District Heights, Forestville, Suitland, Seat Pleasant, Clinton, Oxon Hill, Temple Hills, and Fort Washington.